Interview: The Lucksmiths : betaartı
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Interview: The Lucksmiths

You wouldn’t like to reply your break-up reasons for the 5000th time, so I am starting with this: How do you band members get along with each other now?

Mark: Perfectly fine, though I haven’t seen the other guys much lately. I’ve spent a large amount of this year overseas so unfortunately we haven’t had much chance to catch up and reminisce on old times. Haven’t even had a chance to meet Louis’ little baby daughter yet! Though, Marty and I have been working hard lately, via email, on pulling the new DVD together. It’s been fun to feel active with Lucksmiths things.

How was your fans reaction to your decision? I am sure that you still get plenty of messages inviting you to come back!

Mark: Yes, we get a few from time to time. It was really heartbreaking when all the beautiful messages came flooding in, when we announced the break-up. We received some really touching letters from people, and it really hit home how connected people were to the band. We’d always thought of our fans as close friends or even family who you’d get to see every year or two, and to me it certainly felt like there had been a death in the family.

You released 11 albums and 5 EP’s in 16 years; how will you remember the band in the future? Are you satisfied with what you achieved?

Marty: Very satisfied. When The Lucksmiths were starting out, we had no real expectations for the band, so to leave behind such an extensive body of work is kind of amazing. I could not have imagined all the experiences the band would give us — the corners of the world it took us to, and the many wonderful people we met. As well as bringing home how much our music had come to mean to so many people, our break-up made it possible to look back a little more objectively on our career, rather than focussing on whatever we working on next. I hadn’t thought about it too much while the band was still going, but it’s nice that the songs have their own lives — that they’re still sitting there for people to listen to and discover anew even though the band is no more.

For someone who hasn’t met with The Lucksmiths yet; what do you think should be the starting point?

Mark: Definitely start at the end and work backwards! Thankfully, I don’t think we’d started to stink yet by our last album, and in fact were just starting to hit our straps. So, I’d start at First Frost or maybe Warmer Corners. Actually, the Spring a Leak double-album is a good overview of early, middle and late period Luckmsiths. Start there! Having said that, people still seem to love our early records, even if we can’t really stand them! There’s just no accounting for people’s tastes, right?

For a band toured so much, how much known are you out of Australia? And what are the difficulties to be from Australia?

Mark: I’m really happy with how many people know of us around the world. We never set off to become a famous band, so any level of success was always a novelty and continues to be. Obviously, the main drawback with being from Australia is the distance involved with touring internationally. I think we were lucky to have been around pre-internet, and therefore were able to do things the old-fashioned way. These days, with the playing field so well-leveled, and everyone’s music available everywhere, I think it’s harder to take bands at face value and really fall in love with them. So I think the simplicity of things in the mid-late-90s, and with lots and lots of touring and playing in front of people that had maybe never heard of us, we managed to lay the groundwork for building our loving fanbase. We organised all our tours ourselves, calling venues and things in the middle of the night to get in the appropriate timezone. By sleeping on strangers’ floors and even in tents, and travelling long distances by train and Greyhound bus, people saw that we were going to great lengths to play for them and they appreciated that. Thankfully from those early tours, we managed to make friends for life all over the world (sadly not in Turkey though!), and I think we still have a strong group of very amazing fans.

In Naturaliste, you have a song named “There Is A Boy Never Goes Out”. Besides, you perfectly covered “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” of The Smiths. And I don’t even need to mention the allusion in the bands name “The Lucksmiths”- correct me if it’s not relevant to The Smiths… After all, what does The Smiths mean for your music?

Marty: The Smiths allusion in the band’s name was more or less coincidental; we were aware of it, but if anything I remember it an argument against calling ourselves that (though obviously not a good enough one at the time!). It is true that I loved The Smiths when I first came across their music in high school; I was already trying to play guitar and write songs then, but along with other British indie acts like Billy Bragg, The Wedding Present and The Housemartins, The Smiths got me truly excited about music and made me realise its possibilities. I’ve never really stopped listening to them, either. I always kind of enjoyed punning on Morrissey’s lyrics (as well as the title you quoted, I’m fond of the “drunk in the haze of happy hour” line from an early b-side of ours called “A Great Parker”) because of how significant they were within certain musical circles — and because Morrissey was himself such a shameless borrower of other people’s words. I was fairly apprehensive about covering “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”, though, because it felt like indie pop sacrilege. I really wanted to bring something new to our interpretation (as a worthwhile cover should), and hopefully reimagining it as a duet achieved that. We always intended to have piano on that song, though, and it fell through at the last minute, so it’s always sounded a little unfinished to me.

How’s this year going for you without the Lucksmiths? What are you up to now? Are you still involved in music in the first place?

Louis: This year’s been great: I had a baby daughter at the end of April, who’s wonderful and chubby and happy most of the time. We’re generally getting enough sleep, too, although never all in one go like normal people. I’ve also been studying for the past couple of years and this was my final year ( I just had my last ever exam a week or two ago). It’s quite a relief: I’ve done lots of studying in the past, but this is absolutely the first time I have ever finished anything.

I’m always playing in bands with people. I guess I’m not quite as busy as I was last year, but that’s also been because of my studies and, most of all, because of my new baby.

Have you got any new projects?

Louis: I’ve got lots of projects going, but none yet that are completely new. I’ve still got Mid-State Orange, which is a band for which I write and sing everything– ‘my’ band, for want of a better term. Then I play with Anthony Atkinson, which is excellent, and also in Bart & Friends with Bart Cummings who used to be in The Cat’s Miaow and Hydroplane. There are few other bands I nominally play in, but they haven’t been doing any shows for a long time. I’ve also recently been playing with a band called Baptism of Uzi. That’s new to me, although they’ve been playing for a little while. I’m playing bass in that, and enjoying it immensely.

I know Tali’s got the Guild League, and they’re playing shows every so often — I keep meaning to go, ’cause they’re excellent. Marky’s been a gun for hire in the best sense since the Lucksmiths ended: he’s been recording with one of our favourite bands, Still Flyin’, in San Fransisco, and also with Sally Seltmann, who used to be New Buffalo. So he’s been touring with those bands too. Oh, and he’s also in Bart & Friends as well, but that’s just a fun recording project at the moment. He’s also got Monnone Alone, which was his solo thing but now, in clear defiance of the name, he’s drafted a bunch of friends to play with him sometimes. I played bass for a couple of shows a couple of years ago and loved it, but I got the boot. And likewise, he played bass for me in Mid-State, until the call of international bass-dom lured him away.

Marty plays bass with Anthony Atkinson, so I still play with him there (and he’s also in some of my ‘nominal’ bands, like Acheron Way), and I got him to fill in on bass for Mid-State Orange, too, the other day. I know he’s been writing some new songs as well, and I’m really hoping to have a listen some time soon.

For those who are a little far away from Australian music scene, which musicians/ bands would you recommend for us?

Louis: That’s an excellent question and, generally, there is heaps of great, great stuff in Melbourne. Unfortunately, due to my aforementioned baby, I am no longer in a good position to help out here. Here are a few bands I really liked seeing several months ago, and I’m pretty sure they’re still going: The Ancients (their new record is really great); Milk Teddy (I think there’s general agreement they’re amazing); The Zebras are still one of the best bands ever; Zond are amazing (but indescribably loud); Grand Salvo is one of the best Australian songwriters ever (actually I think he’s living in Berlin at the moment — and so is Ned Collette, another superb songwriter and guitarist); The Motifs are wonderful; The Crayon Fields are always excellent. We played with Super Melody the other week and they were really great.

I feel a bit like I’m listing all the bands I knew from last year and the year before that, but I guess that’s what happens when you get older and stay at home with the kids.  I only ever get to go out if I’m playing these days!

A very self-satisfying question: Could you please tell something special about one of my Lucksmiths favourites “Guess How Much I Love You”? Especially I love the ending words: “This is cartography for beginners, On a map the gap’s three fingers, But it’s more than that, It’s more than that”. I really admire your way of writing- simple, creative, peaceful and humorous at the same time.

Marty: Thanks! “Guess How Much I Love You” was written around the time I started to write more personal songs that were less concerned with being clever than with communicating something on a more emotional level. I’m pretty sure it was the first song I’d written that had the word “love” in the title! It was also an early example of a theme I returned to many times over the years, as the band continued to travel: that of being apart from a loved one. I wrote it (or at least I started writing it; most of my songs take weeks if not months to complete) on an early tour to Sydney; the “backyard in Balmain” belonged either to Chris Crouch (who ran our label Candle Records) or to our good friends Ben and Megs, who used to put us up in those days — I can’t remember which — and the pub referred to was the Cat and Fiddle, where we used to play quite often. Browsing in the excellent local bookshop one day, I came across a children’s book about rabbits called “Guess How Much I Love You”. I thought it was a great title, and I shamelessly stole it. Unfortunately for me, the book was much better-known that I realised: someone told me they’re turning it into a television show at the moment.

Did you ever consider a Turkey show? It’s a pity you broke up before having one…

Louis: I would love, love, love to play in Turkey! I was in Turkey years and years ago… 1996 I think? I had an amazing time. I know Tali’s been too, and loved it. Not sure about the other guys. It is a huge pity we broke up before playing there, I couldn’t agree more. I’m afraid that’s the way the cookie crumbles, as my Grandpa used to say.

Lastly, any chance to come together again?.. Say yes! :)

Marty: Er, no. I guess I shouldn’t say it will never happen, but for now I’m very happy with how we left things, and I’m more interested in whatever comes next.

The Lucksmiths: Website, Wikipedia, Myspace

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